Category: The Power of Women

I’ll go ahead and say what we’re all thinking.

Don’t worry, I’m good at that… you could say it’s one of my things.

Parenting is fracking hard. Not hard like opening a jar or driving in rush hour traffic, but hard like hiding in the bathroom crying, wondering whoever thought you could be trusted with kids should probably get fired. Kids by their very design are made to test your limits of endurance, intelligence and ability to function on little to no sleep.

When a person first begins this journey, they are elated, their heads are filled with ideals and plans. It’s exciting having a little person for whom one is responsible for shaping. Visions of organic produce and no television and violin lessons float through your head. You’re going to do things differently than your parents did. This child will be the most exceptional little person the world has ever seen, due entirely to your superior genes and innovative parenting.

I seriously can’t be the only one who, two years later with my kids sitting in front of Dora for the second straight hours, eating microwaved chicken nuggets, realizing I haven’t taken a shower in three days at the same time realizing before I had these little carpet monsters, that I was an absolute…complete…idiot. I even bought a baby food grinder. Go me.

See, here’s the deal. Kids are people.

Wow, what a concept. But stay with me here. I know that you, the reader, know that. However, you need to think about what that means. People come with ideas, issues, talents, problems and a real healthy sense of screw authority. And you, as a parent don’t get to choose what in that list of people-hood your kid has. Oh, also… you are now the authority your kid is fighting against being oppressed by.

Thank you nature… please come back when you can’t stay so long.

And there is no break. Actually, even crying in the bathroom time is interrupted by little fists banging on the door screaming for inane things or insisting on use of the facilities. It was during one of these non-breaks that I realized I wasn’t cut out to be a stay-at-home-mom. I’m not bashing on stay-at-home-moms here, I was one, and I found it was way too difficult for me. If you can do it, kudos. I have the utmost respect for you, you do the hardest, most varied, most involved thankless job in the universe. I just can’t. Instead I thank god it is 2013 and that brave women before me made it possible for women to have a choice.

Women who don’t work or go to school outside the home sometimes mistakenly believe that those who do are abandoning their children to the care of others, which is untrue. We simply utilize the “it takes a village” philosophy to our advantage. But this post isn’t about the SAHM/daycare mom debate, I’ll leave that to people who feel a need to compare their way of doing things to others. This post is about the surprisingly difficult nature of caring for one’s progeny.

How many times have I thought I was a terrible mother? Just steps away from those crazies who lock their kids in closets and leave them inside locked cars on hot days? I can’t even count. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has laid in bed awake at night telling themselves, “I could have handled that better.”

The other day I was on the phone with my mother and she told me I was a good mom. I literally almost pooped myself. “What? Are you kidding me?” To give a concept of my mom, imagine June Cleaver but more insanely perfect in every way… then imagine that person telling her tattooed, foul mouthed, short-tempered, preoccupied, liberal college activist daughter that she was a good mom.

“Are you okay, mom? Do you want me to call Dad?”

“No, I mean it. You work very hard every day to give your kids everything they need to be healthy and successful.”

“But… all the… and the….”

“We all parent differently, and what makes you a good mom is that you care deeply for your kids and do what it takes. It sometimes takes a lot. In your case it takes a whole lot.”

“Um.. thanks… I think.”

“Um… you’re welcome I think.”

“No, actually… thanks a whole lot. Hearing that from you means a great deal to me.”

After the conversation with my mom, life went on as usual. I didn’t stop bellowing at my kids, but I felt less like I was holding on for dear life. They still fought, forgot things they had been reminded of multiple times, chose to go to bed early than finish the dinner I had worked all day on… same old crap. The only thing that had changed was the way I was thinking about my parenting.

This morning, they started in early. I awoke at 6:30 to screaming about coloring books. I was to my limit before my first cup of coffee. I even lost it for a second when my words fell on the deaf ears of fighting kids. Then, as I realized that nothing I was trying was working, I separated them. Kendyl sat in front of Dora and Tyler got a children’s dictionary. They were told not to make a sound until both of them came to me with three things they had learned.

Tyler spent 5 minutes sulking but then came to me with how a chicken lays an egg, that a harvester is used to cut grain and a radiator keeps a racecar’s engine cool.

Kendyl told me that “salta” was “jump” in Spanish and that purple is made by mixing red and blue.

When they were allowed to go, they were calm and interested in learning more about things.

And I realized, maybe I’m not such a bad parent after all.


I Drove Away

I decided to get some Starbucks today. I needed the extra caffeine with cleaning, final essays and packing for the move all needing to be done today. I ordered a sandwich too.

I pulled over to the shade to eat my sandwich and I witnessed a scene that could have taken place (and did) in my own life just two years ago… or four years ago… or six years ago. How deeply this morning’s events affected me is going to sit inside me for a while, like a stone in my stomach.

The couple was homeless. She, noticeably younger than him, was collecting cans. She bowed her head submissively as he berated her.

“You’re always carrying around garbage! You need to forget that shit and get me a pack of goddamn cigarettes. You better get me my cigarettes! You’re useless!”

She never replied to him. Her head was bowed. She emptied the contents of the can and tucked it neatly away in the bag she was carrying, recognizing it for the value it had. She knew that a few more and she could get the man his pack of cigarettes and maybe then he would be happy with her.

I knew better.

I looked at this woman and I saw myself. She was me. For those who don’t know me, I was in an abusive relationship for eight years. He beat me, he kicked me, he choked me until I blacked out and had pissed myself. This didn’t happen once. This didn’t happen occasionally. This happened at least three times a week for eight whole years.

The worst was the way he made me feel. He called me stupid and fat and useless. I felt like I was stupid and fat and useless. He told me that no other man would put up with the crap he had to deal with from me, and I bowed my head and I accepted it.

Just like the woman outside of Starbucks.

I looked at her and I saw myself.

I remembered being homeless. I remembered being helpless. I remembered thinking if I could only work harder to make him happy, then things would be better.

One day in February, two years ago, my husband bashed in my face. I lost a tooth, not in self-defense, but because I bit him and held on tight. I hoped that he wouldn’t be able to rear back for another hit. Blood was in my eyes and mouth and all over his hand that had just hit me and shattered my skull. I held that hand firmly between my teeth until he wrenched it free, taking my front tooth with it. That was two years ago. I lived a life of fear, of helplessness and self-loathing.

When I got rid of him, (which is a whole story unto itself) I went through a period of extreme anxiety and agoraphobia. I was petrified of even leaving the house. However, I knew that I needed to. I needed to push myself out for my sake and for the sake of my children. I checked out what it would take for me to go back to school, and I enrolled in the local community college. I realized then, as my grades soared and my self-esteem followed, that I was powerful. I would never again allow myself to be controlled by a man, because I knew I was strong enough, smart enough and good enough to do it on my own.

So there I sat on a Friday morning, watching myself bend and scrape to please a man who would never be assuaged.

I wanted to get out of my Jeep and tell her she was beautiful and strong and that she didn’t need him. I wanted to tell her that the only reason he treated her like that was to keep her down and that he knew if she ever gathered the strength to leave him, that he would be nothing. I wanted to give her some of what I had. I wanted her to have the strength and knowledge that she was good enough and she didn’t need him.

But I didn’t.

I had him fixed in a cold, hard stare. He made eye contact with me and held it. He knew that there was something in me that could threaten his tenuous hold on this false power he wielded. But she never even looked up at me. To her (just like to me all those years ago) there was nothing else. It was her lot in life. She only had the ability to think as far as trying to please the man, who would never be pleased. His displeasure and disapproval being his main tool of control. She had no way of knowing she was beautiful and strong and that she could make it and she could rid herself of this horrible man who hung like an anchor around her neck.

Perhaps no one had ever told her. Maybe no one had ever held a mirror up to her and let her see her own power and radiance.

I could have done something, or said something, or anything. I was afraid for her. I was afraid if I said anything that it would be worse for her. Maybe he would start on her with his fists instead of just his words. I wondered about her. Would I have listened to me all those years ago? I wondered disjointedly if my voice could even be heard, a well-dressed white woman in an SUV, clutching a Starbucks cup. Never mind that seven years before I was panhandling at that exact same corner, trying desperately to get my man a pack of cigarettes and a beer.

In my moment of fear and indecision, I put my Jeep in reverse and drove away. I almost turned around several times before getting home.

I put my head in my hands against my steering wheel and I cried.

I didn’t cry for myself. I found the strength to get out.

I cried for the ones left behind. I cried for the women who didn’t know they had that strength within them. I cried for them that didn’t know their worth. I cried for those left behind.

I cried because I drove away.